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A Hard Start to the New Year


Some years get off to a hard start, like 1916 which began with a record-breaking cold snap. On this date that year, Hannah, North Dakota was declared the coldest location in the United States with a temperature of 52 below. 40 below and colder were common throughout the state. At 38 below, Grand Forks was considered mild. The cold temperatures combined with high winds to make any kind of travel difficult.

The weather caused all kinds of trouble. Trains from the west on the Great Northern line were five hours late because of snow. Telephone service was interrupted when lines snapped in the severe cold. Numerous people suffered frostbite to their hands and feet. Sixteen-year-old Leland Jensen had gotten lost while driving in the blizzard. He and his friend drove miles out of their way in the unheated care before finally arriving at the Jensen farm. Leland suffered severe frostbite, and it was feared that both of his feet would have to be amputated.

After ravaging North Dakota, the storm moved eastward. Duluth schools were closed, and the Twin Cities experienced record lows. The storm moved out of the area and on to Chicago, but North Dakotans still had to deal with the aftermath. A week after the storm, citizens of Teague teamed up with local farmers to search for three young people. They were assumed to be frozen to death, but they were eventually discovered at a ranch where they had found protection from the weather.

The storm was also hard on livestock, and ranchers suffered extensive losses. Rancher S.N. Lebo had tried to drive about 150 head of cattle from his ranch in the Bad Lands to the railroad stock yards, but when the storm hit, the animals scattered. Cowboys were now trying to round up the missing cattle. At least 50 of the animals had died in the storm. Lebo’s ranch at one time was the largest in the Bad Lands. After the loss of his cattle, he said he was going to “quit the ranching game” and sell off all his stock.

The winter for hardy stock – animal and human.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Grand Forks Herald:

“Boy May Lose Frozen Feet.” 13 January, 1916

“Hannah, N.D. Coldest Spot in the States.” 13 January, 1916.

“Search for Trio After Big Storm.” 19 January, 1916.

“Cattle Perish in Severe Snow Storm.” 19 January, 1916.